Nora and I

Devised/written and performed by Marianne Sharp, with Doug Hammett (The Rachel Rosenthal Company) and with direction by Catherine Church (Platform4).

Nora and I is primarily concerned with the relationship between acting and autobiography. It’s a collaborative autobiographical project, in dialogue with Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The research explores how an auto-ethnographic approach to Nora’s story might enable a transformation of the idea of Nora as ‘trigger’ into a dramaturgical structure, rather than a narrative effect (as discussed in Holledge and Tompkins, 2000: 20).

Following conceptual research into the production history ofIbsen’s play, women’s autobiographical performance, and psychoanalytic writings, initial community workshops explored ways of creating ‘identity spaces’ for women (ibid). 4 sessions across 5-6 weeks were undertaken with 19 participants in which the researcher developed exercises and questions/provocations that empowered participants to express themselves in written, image and discussion-based forms. This included the women photographing and writing reflections on, their experiences of their domestic spaces/places. The next stage involved experiments in how to incorporate these materials into a performance, and to generate ‘identity spaces’ – places/spaces for breathing and thinking in the performance-dramaturgy that attempted to mirror the workshop process – for audiences.

In the performance questions, specifically unanswered questions, and open spaces became a feature of the dramaturgy. The research discovered that these methods and this kind of dramaturgy can produce narrative interruptions in the performance that potentially offer audience members moments for experiencing aspects of their own subjectivity: moments for critical and/or emotional reflection relating to their own familial relationships/life choices. The projects discoveries lie in the re-framing of Nora as ‘trigger’ beyond A Doll’s House, evident in the performance-dramaturgy and the relationship of the generated praxis to the lively production-history of A Doll’s House (adaptations, interpretations, sequels, bowdlerisations) and existing works in the field of women’s autobiographical performance. ‘Nora’ becomes a way of intervening in dramaturgical structures and offers a model of working with canonical texts with particular focus on autobiography/women’s identities.

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The research was shared at 4 performances: (7.30pm, Theatre Royal Winchester 19th May 2014; 8pm, The Lighthouse (Studio), Poole, May 22nd 2014; ESPACE DbD, Culver City, Los Angeles, USA: July 18th and 19th, 2014).

Conference presentations: TaPRA Annual Conference, Practice-as-Research Exhibition, University of Worcester, 8-10 September 2015.

Funding: Arts Council England Grants for the Arts. Support in-kind from Theatre Royal Winchester and University of Winchester